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Carta de Jenny Bent ciudad de Dominican Republic
February 2015 - Working together in Batey 7
En el mes de febrero, Marcos y yo ayudamos al comité comunitario de Batey 7 para coordinar la visita de 6 mujeres norteamericanas de la Iglesia Presbiteriana de Westminster, Carolina del Sur. El comité tenía la responsabilidad de escoger el proyecto, decidir que materiales necesitarían, encontrar los fondos necesarios y reunir todas las cosas en el momento y lugar indicado. En varias ocasiones Mark y yo nos mordíamos las uñas preguntándonos si lograrían todo. Trabajamos mucho dando consejos constructivos a la vez tratando de evitar imponer decisiones. Fue exhausto!
El grupo de Westminster llegó a Barahona el sábado, 7 de febrero por la noche. Mark, nuestras dos hijas y yo fuimos a recibirlos. Llevamos con nosotros a nuestro amigo, Juan Duval, vicepresidente del Comité Comunitario de Batey 7. ÉL presentó las metas y las actividades que el comité había preparado para el grupo. La primera meta que Juan compartió con el grupo fue la de renovar los techos de dos habitaciones en uno de los Barrancones de Batey 7. La segunda fue la de realizar una limpieza de los drenajes de Batey 7. El grupo tuvo algunas dudas sobre la posible inseguridad de trabajar con los techos, entre otras cosas. Juan respondió con mucha sabiduría aclarando sus inquietudes.Continue reading
A letter from Jenny Bent serving in the Dominican Republic
February 2015 - Working together in Batey 7
Six women from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina, arrived in Barahona on Saturday, February 7, in the late evening. Mark, our two daughters, and I went to receive them. We took our friend, Juan Duval, the vice-president of the Community Development Committee of Batey 7, with us. (A batey is a former camp built for sugarcane workers brought from Haiti, now a small community of families.) He presented the objectives and the activities that the Committee had prepared for the group’s visit. The first goal that Juan shared with the group was to renew the roofs of two rooms in one of the “barrancons” of Batey 7. The second goal was to clean out some of the drainage ditches blocked with trash. The Westminster group had doubts about the safety of working on the roofs, as well as some other questions. Juan addressed the group’s concerns clearly and even with some wisdom.
Monday, February 9, after having provided constructive advice to the Committee in advance of the visit, Mark and I began the adventure with our partners and our visitors! I had selected passages from Nehemiah as part of our time for devotions with which we began each day. I picked Nehemiah because this Biblical story has some strong similarities with the life of Batey 7 and especially with the objectives the Committee wanted to accomplish during the week. After listening to the text and responding to the Word, 6 North Americans and about 15 Dominicans together, we prayed, and then we began working!
A letter from Katie Griffin serving in Argentina
March 2015 - Annual Ministry Update, 2014
MISSION PERSONNEL: Rev. Kathleen M. Griffin
MISSION PARTNER: Instituto Superior Evangélico de Estudios Teológicos (ISEDET)
ISEDET understands its objective to be one of theological education—practical formation and investigation destined for the university-level preparation of those persons who have consecrated themselves to the work of the Christian Church. In this light, ISEDET proposes to be a place that is open to critical creativity, reflection and investigation, and to new forms of theological thinking that respond to the needs of our time and of Latin America, where ISEDET has been called to contribute to the proclamation of the gospel. In its classrooms ISEDET strives to serve the universal Church and society and to form its academic community in an authentic discipleship of Jesus Christ. This theological education is characterized by ecumenism, a Protestant identity and a search for contextuality; it is committed to the continual renewal of and reflection about the Church.
A letter from Sarah Henken serving as Regional Liaison for the Andean Region, based in Colombia
March 2015 - Climate Justice
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this (Galatians 5:22-23).
The sun was bright and spirits were high as we took our place in line. Standing on tiptoe, I couldn’t see the start of the crowd gathered in the street. Later I would learn that there were about 20,000 of us participating in the people’s march for climate justice. We were a motley crew: young and old, drummers and dancers, of different political and spiritual stripes, from many countries and nations around the world, including our group of almost 60, U.S. Presbyterians and partners from Bolivia and Peru. The atmosphere was more like a parade than a protest as we moved through the streets of Lima, sharing our hope for change with the people who stood on the sidelines to gawk or to encourage us. Our message to the world’s lawmakers was simple: let’s change the system, not the climate.Continue reading
A letter from Doug Baker serving in Northern Ireland
Spring 2015 - Faithful Peacebuilding
“Who came up with that title?” was the question I was asked at the Management Committee for the Irish Churches Peace Project (ICPP). When I replied, “Jacqui,” there were looks of pleasant surprise and approval.
I have been chairing a planning group for a major conference bringing together nearly 200 people from the Irish churches to lift up positive examples of faith-based reconciliation work that have been supported by the ICPP over the past three years, to learn from practitioners engaged in similar work in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and to challenge and equip participants for similar work into the future. With such a broad agenda we had been struggling to find an appropriate title!
The planning group was made up of representatives of the four largest denominations in Ireland and others members of the ICPP Steering Committee, including Jacqui, who is the Chief Executive Officer of a secular community relations body in Northern Ireland. It has been a requirement of the European Union body that has provided major funding for ICPP that the Steering Group include individuals from outside the churches who will bring wider perspectives and a sharp challenge to our work. Jacqui has taken that role very seriously and offered to join the conference planning subcommittee.
A letter from Nancy Collins serving as Regional Liaison for East Central Africa, based in Zambia
March 2015 - A Surprise in Eastleigh
Dear Family and Friends,
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Isaiah 58: 6
During my February visit to Nairobi I targeted the Eastleigh neighborhood and the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA)’s Eastleigh Community Center (ECC) for one of my visits. I last visited Eastleigh Community Center in 2010, and I wanted an update on the work of the Center especially in light of press reports of violence in the Eastleigh neighborhood. I had met Rev. Jesse Munyoroku, pastor of the Eastleigh parish, at PCEA’s 2014 international partners’ conference in Nakuru, Kenya, and he had assured me then that it was possible to visit without endangering myself or others. So I contacted Rev. Jesse after I arrived in Nairobi and we arranged to meet at Eastleigh Community Center.Continue reading
A letter from Bob and Kristi Rice serving in Congo
March 2015 - Broken
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body” (Mark 14: 22).
Mulami (Deaconess) Elisabeth greeted us after the worship service. She has recently lost a niece and a grandniece, one of them a mother of four young children. In an interconnected culture where relationships and family and clan mean everything, Mulami Elisabeth’s loss is hard to quantify. However, her comment to us that January afternoon says everything—“This year has only just begun and I am hit by such suffering. God must be testing to see if my faith is real or not.” Our friend found herself “broken” by the harsh realities of life here in Congo and wondering whether her faith would stand the test.
A few years ago I read the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (recently made into a major motion picture). This epic biography chronicles the life of Louis Zamperini. Louis has lived ten lives packed into one. He competed in the 1936 Olympics under Hitler’s watchful eye. He found himself missing in action over the Pacific for months during World War II. He survived the grueling reality of a POW camp in Japan. He returned a war hero. Yet perhaps the title of this impressive book does not belie its most important theme. The title (Unbroken) represents what we Americans hold dear: the “self-made” person, pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps, staying strong no matter what the circumstance. But near the end of the story Louie Zamperini is no longer “unbroken.” He turns to drink. His marriage is on the rocks. In a word, he is “broken.”
A letter from Bernie and Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta serving in Indonesia
March 2015 - Food: Not Just for Health
Dear Family, Friends and Colleagues,Recently Farsijana celebrated her 50th birthday. We organized a big party with guests limited to 50 people, including our household, family and friends. We chose friends to represent different stages and parts of Farsijana’s life. Everyone was requested to share a gift in the form of a story, song, poem, prayer, dance, Scripture, etc. A Muslim friend shared verses from the Qur'an while a Christian shared Bible verses related to the blessing of those who serve others, open their homes, and build true family hospitality. Farsijana, with an army of family and friends, prepared 50 different kinds of food and drink, divided into 10 courses with five types for each course. Farsijana loved it: Farsi’s (Babette’s) feast! After each course a few guests shared their creative gifts, while everyone prepared their stomachs for the next round of delicacies. The food told a story of our travels to many different countries. Everywhere we go Farsijana seeks out new tastes that she can learn to cook and share with others. Her kitchen is something of a legend among our friends. Now her love of cooking is becoming a means of ministry to the villages around our city through a new organization for village excellence called Griya Jati Rasa (House of Authentic Sense—HAS).
Eleven days after the party Farsi joined young people in a poor village to harvest cassavas from their gardens. She wanted to teach them to prepare new kinds of food from this common root plant. Rather than just sell the raw tubers at a low price, they could receive a much higher resale value if they process and cook it into saleable food. So after the harvest, all day long they cleaned, grated and cooked the cassavas. They made three kinds of Javanese cakes and four kinds of chips. The young farmers became entrepreneurs who could ask much higher prices for the product of their land. While they worked they also prepared a delicious vegetable dish for their lunch from young cassava leaves picked straight from the garden.
A letter from Karla Koll serving in Costa Rica
March/ April 2015 - A Lenten Reflection
Dear Sisters and Brothers in mission,
Greetings from Costa Rica as we journey through this Lenten season.
I am sorry to have been out of touch for a couple of months. I was having technical difficulties sending my prayer letter out via e-mail, but I have resolved the problems. I will try to do a better job of staying in touch.
It has been cooler here in San Jose than normal. Strong winds have blown over trees and damaged roofs. We have even had some rain, though this is the dry season. Weather patterns continue to change.
We are well into the new academic year at the Latin American Biblical University (UBL). We have changed our academic calendar to 15-week blocks instead of intensive 8-week blocks. The students in my history of Christianity course are enjoying having a bit more time to explore the first 15 centuries of the life of the Christian movement. The five students taking the class in residence are from Costa Rica, Mexico and Germany. In addition, six students in Honduras and one in Colombia are taking the class through distance learning. At the moment we are examining the changes that occurred in the church when Christianity became a legal religion under Constantine and then seven decades later was declared the official religion of the Roman Empire. The persecuted church became the persecuting church. Here in Costa Rica questions of the relationship between the church and the structures of political power have particular resonance, given that the Roman Catholic Church is still the official state church.Continue reading
A letter from Liz Searles serving in Romania
March 2015 - MAKING THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE: Renewing HOPE
“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
—St. Augustine of Hippo (born in Algeria; 354-430)
I am back in Tulcea, Romania, after visiting family and sharing news with people in 20 congregations in Texas, Oregon, and Connecticut. I like to call this time “making the invisible visible”—we see each other and understand each other's challenges and ministries in person—in the flesh. As I speak in congregations I am privileged to meet the many people in the pews who make ministry in Romania possible. In that way itineration helps make the invisible visible.
That's what our shared ministry is about, isn't it? Making invisible realities such as faith, hope and love visible in the world. Just as the Word was made Flesh in Jesus Christ, these invisibles become visible as we share incarnational ministries worldwide.Continue reading
A letter from Michael and Rachel Ludwig serving in Niger
March 2015 - Transformation in the Air
We came to Niger hoping to see transformation. Although everything is not suddenly wonderful here, we have been seeing astounding transformation lately as we serve with the Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger (EERN). The first transformation was a sudden two-day situation in January when it felt like all Christians in Niger were under attack. A mob mentality swept through Niger’s two biggest cities as some political parties and extremists stirred up youth to burn down symbols of French power and Christian presence. But the following weeks of uncertainty, troubling rumors, and re-evaluation was the time when we saw an even bigger transformation.
Christians went from being victims to offering forgiveness. We saw church members rise from fear to this new role with strong leadership from pastors like the former president of the EERN, Rev. Sani Nomaou, who proclaimed, “I call on every single believer in Niger to forgive and forget, to love Muslims with all their hearts, to keep up the faith, to love Christ like never before… We must love our persecutors. We must welcome them into our houses, give them food when they are hungry, give them a drink when they are thirsty… Muslims in Niger, we love you with the love of Jesus Christ.”Continue reading
A letter from Nancy McGaughey serving in South Sudan
March 2015 - Clinics, Nutrition Sites
“Violence happens in every family (husband hits wife) but it usually is a problem of miscommunication, or the husband has been drinking.”
2015 started with a lot of traveling around South Sudan. Only a few days after returning from Christmas break, I headed with my supervisor to Jonglei State. Our first stop was to cross the river to Minkamen, where we have been running two mobile clinics for IDPs (internally displaced people) from the conflict that started in 2013. We gathered some of the “clients” from the two clinics (one, reproductive health and the other, general health) as “focus groups” to ask them their views. On what they liked about the clinics: “The care here is better than where we were at home,” “We appreciate how they treat us like family, and the care is good. There is always medicine here and they do not make us pay.” We also asked them about other topics— water source, when they would return to their homes (“Why would we return to a place we suffered so much until we are sure it is safe?”) and about gender-based violence. That topic inspired a lively discussion. Yes it happens, no we do not report it unless we are seeking a divorce; it is a part of life. “This is normal in our culture—our family and friends protect us. But here in the IDP camp there is no one.”Continue reading
A letter from Inge Sthreshley serving in Congo
March 2015 - Home Gardening
My colleague, Mbuyi, who is an agriculturist, just came back from a trip to the West Kasai province. One of the pictures he shared with me shows a community health worker displaying seeds in his cupped hands. The health worker multiplied them from the original stock that we distributed four months ago during training. I’ve seen many of those pictures now and they always make my heart sing. When I see the multiplied seed, I know that family and community can keep growing their gardens long after the ASSP project (Access to Primary Health Care) is finished.
I work together with Mbuyi and Esperant, a nutritionist, on the nutrition component of the ASSP project. We are trying to bring a culture of home gardening to 8 million people in four provinces of Congo to increase both availability and variety of foods for families and their children, coupled with basic nutrition education. Congo has a significant problem with malnutrition that has all sorts of long-term ramifications for both the malnourished child and the community.Continue reading
A letter from Jo Ella Holman serving as Regional Liaison for the Caribbean region, based in the Dominican Republic
March 2015 - Presbyterian Women Explore the Caribbean with Sisters from Partner Churches
I'm going home in the morning train.
I’m going home in the morning train.
I’m going home in the morning train,
For the evening train it be too late.
So sang one of our hosts from the Women’s Association of the Iglesia Evangélica Dominicana (IED)—in English, no less. Our group of eight U.S. Presbyterian Women (PW), who were part of a Global Exchange with sisters in the Caribbean, was joined by two national Dominican Women’s Association officers and me to explore and learn together about the country, the church, and some pressing social issues.
Our journey started in Jamaica with a gathering of PW representatives of PC(USA) synods and Caribbean sisters from Jamaica, Surinam, Cuba, Grenada, and Trinidad/Tobago. Our host for the Exchange was CANACOM, Caribbean and North American Council on Mission, of which the PC(USA) is a member church. In Jamaica our orientation focused on several issues important in the Caribbean region and in the U.S. Presbyterian World Mission is focusing on three critical global initiatives: addressing root causes of poverty, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, and reconciliation.Continue reading
A letter from Katie Griffin serving in Argentina
March 6, 2015 - Cultural Images for Women
… and she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to Jehovah, and wept much.—1 Samuel 1:10
“Pray for the country whose women have not a right to a place of respect and love in the home or church.”—Alice C. Wood, “Light in Dark South America,” Latter Rain Evangel (July 1912), p. 8
Her youngest daughter, her star-child, her hope for the future, is six months pregnant. The housekeeper and babysitter who has been working with us for the last five years is a committed Pentecostal whose husband divorced her because she wanted him to stop seeing other women. She then raised her five children alone. The three oldest are in stable relationships, making ends meet. The fourth was having difficulties with addictions, but seems to have turned his life around now. And now her youngest daughter, who just finished her first semester studying law at the university, is about to become a single mother.
Life for many women in Argentina is no longer how it was in the days of Hannah, Samuel’s mother, nor in the Argentina of 100 years ago. Nevertheless, many women continue to be vulnerable to manipulation, exploitation, or what many might simply call “bad luck”—which is something in which, as a historian, I do not believe. Cultural systems take ages to transform.Continue reading
A letter from Farris Goodrum serving in Brazil
March 2015 - A Refreshing Retreat
Dear friends and faithful supporters,
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer—Acts 2:42.
Greetings from Brazil. In February our church, the United Presbyterian Church of Maruipe here in Vitoria, had it annual spiritual retreat during “Carnaval.” In popular culture Carnaval is the final festive celebration before Lent, and Protestant churches have traditionally used this time to escape the city and the loud celebrations of Carnaval, to go to out-of-the-way places for spiritual retreats. For most churches in Brazil these retreats are particularly for the young people, but in our church the entire church family participates. The above verse, from Acts 2:42, is an appropriate verse considering the activities at the spiritual retreat: teaching opportunities, much fellowship, meals together, communion, and prayer.
A very nice location was found for the retreat in a mountainous area just a couple of hours outside of Vitoria. The cool climate was a wonderful respite from the intense heat of Vitoria at this time of the year. (December, January and February, Brazil’s summer months, are the hottest months of the year here.) The retreat center had a spacious dining room, an open area for our worship services and Sunday school, a swimming pool, trampoline, and pool table. We couldn’t have asked for more, and it was enjoyed by all who participated. Our son Joel (now 17) enjoyed being one of the guitarists for the worship services.Continue reading
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.